Yo-del-la-dee-ho: A yearning to Yodel
OTTAWA -- If you want to answer the call of musical creativity, you may wish to join a growing chorus of voices giving yodelling a try.
Some wannabe yodellers are taking free online courses like this one founded by Norm Gwaltney. A self-named “Yodelologist”.
“It’s just tongue and cheek,” said Gwaltney, a full-time schoolteacher in Indianapolis.
“It all started because I wanted to teach myself how to make a website in the mid-nineties. So, I combined that idea with my quirky little hobby of yodelling,” he said.
“When I was young, we flew back and forth visiting family in Germany. I latched onto the music, came back with cassette tapes, practiced and that started me on a journey.”
The site has drawn “several million” students and visitors since the passionate yodeler founded it 25 years ago.
“It was early for the internet and we had millions of users. I’d get calls from media and DJ’s around the world asking me to teach them how to yodel. It was great for a few laughs.”
The course offers a variety of yodel exercises and songs to help students develop their yodel sounds, syllables and techniques. Upon completion of the program, Gwaltney reviews your yodel recording and presents graduates with a certificate of Yodelology.
“For whatever that’s worth,” he laughs.
“If you did the best you could, you’re good to go.”
Gwaltney has noticed an “uptick” in visitors since the advent of the pandemic, as people search for engagement and entertainment during lockdowns and “stay at home” orders.
“Especially in the early days of Covid, there was definitely an increase in users and also unique users, not just people coming back who were taking the course,” he said.
In Carleton Place, 43-year-old Andy Bowes has been yodelling since he was 17. His grandmother and mother were also yodellers.
“I remember hearing of my grandmother doing it. And mother told me stories of her doing it. My mother taught me a little bit on the piano. I started doing it and never looked back.”
Bowes is largely self-taught. His western style of yodelling is inspired by such legends as Wilf Carter and Eddie Arnold.
“I started listening to the old records and old cassettes and just kept singing for hours a day. I had a breakthrough and it just seemed to come naturally.”
Bowes has performed across the country, with his brothers “The Bowes Brothers”, a popular music group rooted in Carleton Place. Andy’s yodelling is always a crowd pleaser.
“The most important thing I take from it is the enjoyment I get from the older generation. They love it so much and it brings them so much joy. I enjoy sharing it and I’m glad so many people embrace it when I do it,” said Bowes.
When not performing, Bowes works for himself as a contractor and home renovator. And even on the job, he can’t stop himself from yodelling.
“Yep, I do get caught yodeling on the job. I have a lot of yodels on my playlist. Many customers wonder what’s coming out of the basement.”